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Dallas falls apart in fourth quarter again, loses to Detroit 102-96

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Suddenly the Mavs have lost four straight games.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks lost at home Wednesday night.  Again.  They blew a late lead to a team with an inferior record.  Again.  They wasted a quality performance from Dirk Nowitzki.  Again.

Given what many so called "experts" and prognosticators were predicting for Dallas, it would likely be fair to say that the Mavericks had overachieved to at least some small degree at the start of the season.  Perhaps that serves as the only worthwhile explanation for why they appear so listless, so inadequate, and so stunningly one-dimensional now.

SECOND HAND POINTS KILL

Surprising no-one, the Pistons crushed Dallas on the glass, 51-40.  They hauled in 15 offensive boards(6 from Andre Drummond), and used them to really break the Mavs' collective back with some big buckets in key situations.  Even when Drummond was off the floor, Detroit seemed to be getting to balls more often than the home team, and one sequence that saw three Dallas players stand around watching a Piston guard get an easy putback sent coach Rick Carlisle into a convulsive outburst.  You can really tell that Carlisle is frustrated by how his team has failed to rise out of this muck of recent play.

DALLAS FORWARDS CARRY THE LOAD

Both Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitki scored 25 points.  Dirk turned in another throwback performance, adding 10 rebounds and 3 assists.  A couple of times late Dallas was either unable to get the ball to Dirk or unable to get him a good look, thanks to a scrappy defensive effort from a very game Detroit squad.  The veteran Mav offense just has not looked sharp in late-game situations the last few weeks.  Parsons, meanwhile, broke out of his mini-slump to shoot 11-20 from the field, along with 6 assists and 0 turnovers(though he did have a couple of poor decisions with the ball in this one that proved costly).  The Dallas backcourt?  Meh.  D-Will had 9 dimes but shot poorly again.  Wes Matthews hit his first two threes, and missed the rest.

THE BENCH EQUATION: A PROBLEM?

Rick Carlisle has seemingly settled on David Lee and the three point guards as his bench group.  No-one else logged a minute of game-time.  While J.J. Barea had a nice stretch attacking the rim at one point, the multi-guard looks have been kind of a disaster lately.  Neither Devin Harris nor Raymond Felton have shot the ball well this year, and it's really sapped the juice out of the Mavs' drive and kick offense.  This is to say nothing of the defense, where closeouts almost always feature an undersized player rotating too late, and rim protection is completely non-existent.  I fear that the unfortunate timing of the Devin and D-Will injuries around the All-Star Break made trading Felton too unpalatable for Carlisle, who had suddenly made Felton a late-game fixture.  Dallas really could have benefited from trading his expiring deal for a halfway-decent wing shooter.  One Rick Carlisle would actually play, of course(sorry John Jenkins).

It's easy to point out problems when you've lost four straight games, but at this stage it's clear that changes need to be made, or else the Mavs' are going to be in a dogfight to even make the playoffs, let alone have a chance at being any sort of real competition in the first round.